Most people are aware of the popular cannabis-derived compounds known as THC and CBD, but many have either never heard of or are not as familiar with terpenes. What are terpenes, and what purpose do they serve with cannabis?
Terpenes are actually molecules that are found in all plants on Earth. They’re responsible for many of the attributes that animals can detect with their sense organs. This includes taste and smell. Plants with distinct aromas and tastes owe those characteristics to terpenes.
In marijuana plants, terpenes work the same way. Veteran cannabis consumers have long been aware that different strains often emit specific fragrances that inspire the funny names they are anointed. Examples are the sweet, citrusy smell of Pineapple Express or the earthy smells of some other strains.
Terpenes, cannabinoids and the entourage effect
There are actually hundreds of different terpenes that all serve unique purposes in plants and marijuana specifically. Alongside terpenes, cannabis also contains hundreds of compounds called cannabinoids, the most popular being THC and CBD. When combined with any other number of cannabinoids, terpenes will generate an entourage effect, or synergy that produces different effects for the consumer. The entourage effect and the specific combinations of terpenes and cannabinoids that produce different effects is still a subject of research, but there are already quite a few established combinations that are on the market today.
As you shop around in a recreational dispensary for the right product, you might look a little further than just the THC and CBD content and inquire as to which terpenes were combined in the strain you’re looking at. A specific terpene might be just what you need to have an enjoyable time.
Popular terpenes and their effects
Below is a list of some of the most popular terpenes and their general effects found in today’s cannabis market:
Pinene – this terpene, as the name suggests, is what gives coniferous trees that earthy smell everyone loves, especially around the holidays. Aside from the pine needle smell, Pinene is also known to increase short-term memory retention, which is something that THC often-times inhibits. It is also anti-inflammatory and opens up your airways. Pinene is a great terpene for those looking for a strain to consume while being active.
Myrcene – this is a sweet, citrusy terpene found in mangos. Its benefits include being an anti-inflammatory, sedative, and pain-reliever. Myrcene is great for Indica strains and for people who are looking to relax, perhaps after a workout or injury. Euphoria is also commonly attributed to Myrcene.
Limonene – another citrusy terpene is Limonene whose name comes from its very prominent sour aroma. It’s found in lemons and tangerines, but also in rosemary, juniper, and pine. Next to Myrcene, it’s one of the most common terpenes found in plants. Its citrusy smell is actually a deterrent to predators, so it makes sense that it is produced in abundance in nature. Like all terpenes, its true effects are still being studied, but a few of the most notable benefits is its possible use as an anti-inflammatory, pain-reliever, and anti-depressant.
Linalool – found in over 200 species of plants, Linalool has a very floral taste and smell most commonly associated with lavender. Its benefits include being anti-inflammatory, anti-convulsant (helps with epilepsy), and anti-anxiety. Linalool also acts as a minor sedative and may be found mostly in Indica cannabis strains. Overall, this terpene is a good component of stress-relieving remedies.
Caryophyllene – this is a terpene that is most associated with spicy, pepper-like fragrances and tastes. Like most other terpenes mentioned here, this one also contains anti-inflammatory effects, but it also contains antioxidants as well. Caryophyllene is unique in that it is one of the few terpenes that behaves similarly to CBD in the way that it combines to cannabinoid receptors. For this reason, and with its added benefit of being an anti-inflammatory, Caryophyllene is often used to help with intestinal tract ailments and general pain relief. And finally, this terpene’s spicy and sometimes cinnamon-like expression makes it great for topical products such as creams and lotions.
Cannabis is much more diverse in its effects than people previously imagined. As more is learned about terpenes and the entourage effect, it will become increasingly more beneficial to seek out strains with specific profiles catered to your needs or preferences.